Thoughts on the privileges of capitalism and hard work

Armstrong Williams | 1/16/2014, 4:25 p.m. | Updated on 3/18/2014, 2:13 p.m.
Armstrong Williams

Communism is an economic construct that died because it had no incentives for anyone other than the politicians who, of course, lived outside the economic rules of their society. The lack of incentives, combined with human nature, killed all work ethic. Money became worthless because there was nothing to buy. Laborers engaged in ever poorer workmanship. State-owned and -managed companies were able to survive only because the public was forced to buy their shoddy goods. In the end, many in Russia suffered. The Russian saying in the 1970s that “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us” was very telling.

In a perfect world, where people are never selfish, communism and socialism might work. The problem with communism, socialism and Marxism is that their view of human nature is incorrect. Each depletes economic virtue practically across the board. Those on the top are largely there because of cronies or having a strong family background with wealthy prominent members. They often stay in power via corruption and exploitation of the poor. Dynamic virtue will rarely be found in such a class of people.

Then there are the majorities who hold the power of uprising. This group of people includes more than just those on the fringe of society; it contains the lower and fledgling middle classes. They have no incentive to work; rather, their lives are caught up in an illusion. They are provided with the crafty ruse that the life that they are living is on par with the middle class of the rest of the world. They believe that their government is not buying them off, but that this system is actually more honorable.

It is thought that communism is supposed to cure all of the ailments of capitalism. Communism is supposed to be an evolution of economic systems that is better than both socialism and capitalism. In a perfect world, where people are never selfish, communism might work. However, this is simply inconsistent with human nature. People, whether because of biology, evolution or God’s will, work to better their own lives and to provide for their own families and loved ones. No amount of evangelizing, idealizing or governmental coercion can change this simple fact about “Economic Man.”

But what about capitalism? Can it and should it survive? A system of incentives that emphasizes work ethic and education is the only realistic way to ensure speedy, perpetual innovation and creativity. All other systems have proven to be failures in this regard. However, the recent Great Recession has raised the issue of capitalism’s viability, especially in the hybrid form that combines it with socialist elements.

The main ill of capitalism is that it treats failure as the defeat it is. In a society of grade inflation and a lack of personal responsibility, everything is somebody else’s fault. Shouldn’t failure also get a trophy? When we start to reward failure, we begin the process of not acknowledging the importance of success. When the government underwrites whole markets, capitalism cannot work, and we begin to lose track of the “real” values of the products within that market.